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Updated: 8 hours 11 min ago

Firm pledges to support small businesses on regulatory challenges  

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 06:31

Director of Programmes, SME 100 Nigeria, Mr. Temitope Adekoya (left); Chief Executive Officer, SME 100 Nigeria, Mr. Charles Odii; Partner, Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL) Business Development Group, Mrs. Yvonne Ezekiel and Head, Regulatory & Compliance Practice, Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL), Mrs. Beverley Agbakoba-Onyejianya. 

Olisa Agbakoba legal (OAL) has pledged to collaborate with an indigenous firm, SME100 in order to support small businesses on capacity building, increase legal and regulatory awareness and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit.
In a press conference, the head of regulatory and compliance practice of OAL, Mrs. Beverley Agbakoba-Onyejianya stated that the department would offer SME100 their full support.
According to her, the regulatory and compliance department of OAL are committed to driving gender friendly programmes and supporting local entrepreneurship.Her words: “We have this regulatory and compliance department in OAL which is actually perfect for small businesses. We are trying to be proactive to ensure that we step in before things go wrong. So we want to help small businesses by guiding them with the regulatory requirements.
“So OAL partnership with SME100 is open to a massive cooperation for an interesting businesses to leverage on, whether they are start up or in the idea stage. “We have the expertise. There is so much that we have to offer to these small businesses and we have the opportunity to get access to these small businesses. We want to let small businesses know that we are here and we are ready to impact differently.”
Also the chief executive officer, SME100 Nigeria, Mr. Charles Odii said they need OAL to come into the organization, impact on the businesses and at the same time, let people coming into the business know what regulations entails.
His words: “Sometimes, small businesses don’t have enough resources to run a background check on projects. In the case where OAL comes into the organization to help, we will have a retainership fee per annum for services in terms of registration, communication, and when some thing come up, we know we have OAL as our legal partner.”

Turkish Airline sued over alleged luggage seizure

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 06:15

Turkish Airlines / AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ

A Nigerian businesswoman, Tolulope Ogundokun has sued Turkish Airline over alleged seizure of her luggage for four days during her trip from Turkey en route London, by an official of the Airline.Her crime, she said was that she had the effrontery to ask why she had SBY (standby) on her boarding pass instead of a seat number.

In a suit filed at Federal High Court, Lagos, with number FHC/L/CS/439/2017, on behalf of the plaintiff by her counsel, Mike Igbokwe (SAN) is asking for N250 million damages.

The defendant’s counsel challenged the jurisdiction of the court, requesting the complainant to take the case to Turkey since the incident transpired there but Igbokwe insisted that the jurisdiction to institute the action is the “option of the Plaintiff” and not for the defendant to decide for the Plaintiff. Hearing on the matter has been fixed for March 9.

According to the plaintiff, she got to the check-in Line C counter to enquire why her boarding pass is marked standby. “The Airline representative told me the flight was overbooked but I should go to the boarding gate, that I may be considered if the area was not fully occupied.

“But then the manager, Tartan, told me to go check their website, that a confirmed ticket did not guarantee a seat on the aircraft. His words: ‘I don’t have time for you. You can stand there and keep asking me questions’
“He fumed and threatened to take my bags out of the aircraft and that I would not travel to London if I persisted in knowing.  Tartan thereafter went wild. He gripped her with her and hit her continuously on her arm.”

On getting to London, Tolu said she discovered that her luggage were not in the plane which made her to wear the same clothes for days in London.

‘Under our extant laws, a person may not be arrested or declared wanted without a warrant’ 

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 06:10

Kayode Ajulo

In recent times, there have been public agitations and outcry against perceived disrespect of procedures and highhandedness by security agencies in Nigeria. Many are of the view that such a disposition infringes on the fundamental rights of citizens. In this interview with Assistant Judicial Editor, JOSEPH ONYEKWERE, ex-national secretary of Labour Party (LP) and Abuja-based lawyer, Kayode Ajulo says the notoriety of executive agencies in transgressing the very laws that create and empower them has become commonplace and regrettably the norm.

On the allegations of impunity against security agencies, Ajulo said: “The issues that arise from these exhibitions of impunity and gross ignorance of the law are a real threat to our budding democracy, and a mockery of laid down procedures and guidelines painstakingly enacted by our lawmakers.”  
Could it be that these agencies and their agents are simply driven by a passion to get the job done, no matter the means? In response, Ajulo said: “No! That is hardly the case. Let’s examine that position against the recent misplaced zeal of the Nigeria Police Force and the Department of State Security in handling the non-issue involving Mr. Kassim Afegbua, spokesperson for the former military president, Ibrahim Babangida. Firstly, we must reiterate that the law seeks to establish laid down procedures for securing the attendance of accused persons in court. This is important because where no proper procedures are laid down for securing the attendance of accused persons in court, there is bound to be violation of the rights of such persons. Article 9 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights to which Nigeria is a signatory provides that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. This provision is domesticated in section 35 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria, and guarantees that the dignity of all Nigerians must enjoy safeguards against arbitrariness whether official or non-official.”
On the implications of declaring a person wanted and the laid down procedure for such a declaration, the lawyer, who is the managing partner of Castle of Law, Abuja responded thus: “Usually, when any security outfit makes a declaration that a person is wanted, it is usually under the impression that a crime has indeed been committed and such offender has suddenly gone under the radar. Also such declarations usually pre-empt an arrest. Under our extant laws, a person may not be arrested or declared wanted without a warrant duly obtained from a competent court and endorsed by same authorising it. The exceptions to the above do not bear on the case in point, that is the Mr. Afegbua’s issue.
“The law demands that before making a Wanted Declaration on a public platform or any other for that matter, the police ought to obtain a warrant of arrest duly signed and endorsed by a competent court. The said warrant must also be presented at the point of arrest and in it, the particulars of the arrest ought to be spelt out.  Where a person sought to be arrested makes a run for it or evades arrest, then a declaration informing the public of the accused person’s status may be made. By implication, where such an accused declared wanted is seen, the public is to assume that such a person is not just a wanted criminal, but also a potentially dangerous one.  The serious implication of such presumptions makes any deviation from the above process an abrogation of lawful processes, a clear indicator that the said agency seeks to appropriate to itself powers vested singularly in the courts and also a gross disrespect of the accused person’s dignity of self, especially where he or she is neither on the run, in hiding nor knowing of the summon, invitation or intended arrest.”
According to him, to secure Mr. Afegbua’s appearance at the Police station, the declaration made against him by the police was absolutely unnecessary. His words: “What crime is he said to have committed? Why impute that he is on the run or evading the police when the police had extended no formal invitation to him? Even a constable newly in the employ of the police force can fault the action of the police in declaring a person wanted just to grab his attention and make him honour a previously non-existent invitation.”
There are popular conclusions that the DSS stepped in to finish up a carefully orchestrated strategy to intimidate Afegbua. Commenting on this belief, Ajulo said: “The DSS has long ceased to be the Department of State Security. It is now the Department of Aso Rock Security (DARS). By jumping into the foray,  ‘DSS’ assumed the role of an arbiter in a civil issue, with no least connection to the scope of their powers or functions under the instrument creating them. At first glance, one could see into the real substance of that move but the question that begs the said invitation is: by what authority, real or imagined where the DSS operating under?
“The issue of the circumference of the DSS operative power has been severally delineated by statutory and case law authorities. Section 3 of the National Security Agencies Act, binding on the DSS and sister agencies materially restricts the function of the DSS to dealing with the prevention and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria; the protection and preservation of all non-military classified matters concerning the internal security of Nigeria; and such other responsibilities affecting internal security within Nigeria as the National Assembly or the President, as the case may be, may deem necessary.
“As reaffirmed by the courts in Director of State Security Service & Anor. v Olisa Agbakoba (1999) 3 NWLR (Pt 595) 314, the above statutory functions remain the scope of the DSS’s operational power as anything done outside those provisional functions are ultra vires and null ab initio.
“While security agencies continue to gamble with statutory powers and functions, the real crimes and criminals operate freely. The summon of Mr. Afegbua by the DSS is a total waste of time that could have been better put to the strengthening of the nation’s internal security. It is befuddling to common sense what threat to internal security is occasioned by one’s exercise of his right to freedom of speech. It is equally sobering to note that those entrusted with securing the nation’s internal security cannot tell a real threat from a non-existent one.
“The sheer zeal exercised by the DSS in its invitation of Mr. Afegbua reveals an ambitious undertone that may not border well for Nigeria and Nigerians. There have been previous outcries denouncing the personalisation of security agencies, particularly the DSS by the executive who deploy them into intimidating and muscling perceived opposition into submission. While it is not my brief to outline the demerits of such a situation, I nonetheless denounce it strongly as it limits and weakens the DSS, while exposing them to ridicule. The absurdities at play in this political theatre of interests, ambitions and ultra vires appropriation of functions and powers must end. No institution can be bigger than the people it was created to serve, nor assume a role not within the character of its enabling laws.”
Responding to a question on his clients disposition to the issue, he said: “Mr. Afegbua remains a patriotic Nigerian caught in the whirlwind of power politics, and his rights under the constitution and other similar legislation cannot and should not be trivialised by ignorant or overzealous agencies and agents quick to scurry a favour or two from their political handlers. We have laws and laid down procedures for a reason; to create order and set boundaries.
“He has maintained his commitment to doing the right thing as he has always done, until the unfortunate circumstances surrounding him are dispelled by truth and fairness. Mr. President must be duly advised as to how the continuous haranguing of Mr. Afegbua by agencies under his direct control reflects badly and poorly on his democratic score sheet. At a time when this government is hard-pressed to prove it’s respect for the law and due process, the negative publicity stirred up by the antics of the Force and DSS cannot be reckoned as good for its image.
“In fact, I would recommend that all security agencies in the country begin an immediate re-orientation of its agents as a matter of national emergency. We cannot continue to harbour obtuse elements within such sensitive agencies at a time when real security issues confront the country and other nations of the world make progress in their respect of the inalienable rights of their citizens.”

CSOs want ‘Not too young to run bill’ passed in state assemblies

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 05:10

A coalition of 54 Non Governmental Organizations, under the umbrella, ‘Not too Young to Run Movement’, has urged all the state houses of assemblies that are yet to pass the bill before them, to do so.

This they said is in order to enable it accommodated in the constitutional amendment process.According to them, if younger ones are given the leeway to seek elective positions in the country, they will inject fresh ideas.The body also faulted the Taraba House of Assembly for its decision not to endorse the bill when it was before it.

Meanwhile, the movement has commended the 21 Houses of Assembly for approving the bill as at few weeks ago.Speaking with The Guardian on Friday in Owerri, the Imo State Coordinator of the movement, Prince Chimezie Okoro, also commended the youths, which he said constituted 52 per cent of those registered in the ongoing Continue Voter Registration CVR.

He regretted that the number falls short of the expected number. He said the movement would continue in mobilization, to ensure more youths showed support and interest in registering and obtaining their Permanent Voters’ Card.

Accompanied by the national deputy secretary of the body, Lucy Obasi, he said:“By this singular act, the 21 Youth friendly states have made history and written their names in gold. The passage of ‘Not Too Young to Run’ is a demonstration of their commitment to the tenets of representative democracy.

“We commend them for fulfilling their promise to their constituents and the Nigerian youths. Nigerian youths would always remember them for showing leadership in promoting youth inclusion in democratic politics in Nigeria. Posterity will be fair to them.’’

The movement however, urged the Imo State House of Assembly to pass the bill.‘’We demand that Imo State House of Assembly speedily pass the ‘Not Too Young To Run Bill.’’

Amendment of customary court law delaying reconstitution, says Commission

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 04:46

The executive secretary of Anambra State Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Mr. Christian Nnabuihe has explained that the delay in reconstituting the customary courts in the state is as a result of the decision to amend the customary courts law.

According to him, the move is in order to enable only qualified legal practitioners to serve as presidents and members of customary courts, in line with modern trend in customary law practice all over the country.

JSC in a press release said the draft bill for the proposed amendment has since been pending before the State House of Assembly, and is still waiting for the attention of the House committee on Judiciary and Justice.

Reacting to reports that the chairman of the House committee on Judiciary, Chugbo Enwezor called for immediate reconstitution of the state customary courts, Nnabuihe said the commission reached a unanimous decision to amend the law since April 20, 2016.

He also bemoaned the inability of the House committee in securing adequate budgetary allocation to the JSC, which he said, has led the Commission to borrow money for its activities, following the allocation of a meager sum of N2.2million to the commission in the 2017 fiscal year.He therefore urged Enwezor to ensure the quick passage of the proposed amendment before the panels would be reconstituted.

Supreme Court settles legal representation in N22.4b Nospecto funds in Central Bank

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 04:10

Relief came the way of over 13,737 members of Nospecto Investors Forum as the Supreme Court resolved the legal representation that has delayed the matter for three years.
At the resumed proceedings on the matter, the five-man panel, which was presided over by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour resolved the issue of legal representation, following the application filed by the counsel representing the appellant, Nospecto Oil and Gas, Abdulmumuni Bamidele.
Bamidele who notified the court of his motion dated February 5, 2018 asked the court to intervene in the issue of legal representation.
“I want an order directing Debo Adeleke and Rowland Otaru (SAN) to be bound over the issue of legal representation because this is the third year we have been coming and going back on the issue of legal representation. We don’t want the problem to continue,” he submitted.
Earlier when counsel were announcing their appearance, Mr. Adeleke told the court he appeared for 1st, 4th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and the 14th respondents in a representative capacity of 13, 737 investors.
Otaru who has always told court that he represented four respondents in capacity of other members of investor forum announced his appearance for only four investors, namely; Kenny Badejo Rowland (2nd), Victoria Omotunde George (3rd), George Ushei (5th) and John Igho (6th) respondents.
The apex court then asked Adeleke for proof to show that he represented the 13,737 respondents. He responded that he had it in the processes filed before the court.Adeleke said: “We have stated it there on page two of our motion dated November 20, 2017 and filed on December 11, 2017. The motion goes to the root of this matter.”
The court therefore affirmed that Mr Otaru would be limited to the four people he said he is appearing for. “It is clear that on February 12, 2018 he (Otaru) is appearing for four people,” the court held.The apex court therefore struck out applications on legal representation filed by counsel to parties.
In 2008, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had secured two Investment and Securities Tribunal (IST) judgments against the oil company (Nospecto) categorized as ‘Wonder Bank’, for ‘operating illegally and for engaging in collective financial scheme without SEC approval.    

Following the development, the 13, 741 investors filed a matter before the tribunal in 2010 against the company through their counsel, Mr Adeleke, with the aim of securing the release of their fund with CBN, which had been confiscated from Nospecto by SEC on behalf of the investors.

The matter, which took just eight months to be decided by the tribunal, went in favour of the investors, prompting the company to file appeal at the Court of Appeal and then the Supreme Court.

SAN charges lawyers, procurement officers on regulatory laws

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 05:58

Lawyers in a court room

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria and professor of law, University of Lagos, Wole Smith has urged lawyers and procurement officers in the country to develop laws that would govern contracts in their areas of specialization.
According to him, it is safer for the procurement officers to have their own laws.
His words: “The civil law system is very rigid and there is no liability there.  And then we have liability under common law. I believe that the laws of this country shall apply to those things except that we find most construction of projects involving different processes and different milestone, involving people from different places.”
Smith made this statement on a three-day training organized by the First Track Educational Resources Limited.
The event with the theme ‘capacity building for lawyers and procurement officers in the federal ministry of water resources’, had other speakers such as Dr. Dayo Ayoade, professor Aimi Awah, professor Ocheme and professor Abiola Sanni.
The speakers talked on various topics such as international best practice in projects and construction agreement, a guide to statutory and regulatory framework of public procurement, procurement integrity, ethics, due process and among others.
Smith said: “You have to adopt some rules into contracts, which will guide the execution of that contract and if there is any problem along the line then, the ADR will have the course to go through it. In arbitration, there are special rules.
“Those rules are just lifted and put into that contract as reference. So, I believe that we need to be flexible.

Lawyer harps on need to tackle challenges in real estate transactions

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 05:27

Real estate

The managing partner of Prince Joel and Associates, Prince William-Joel has said the difficulties inherent in real estate transactions in Nigeria need to be tackled appropriately.

According to him, that has to be done within the right context in order to eliminate all forms of inadequacies and mishaps relating to land and property acquisition.

He said the drive to get this done motivated him to write and publish a book titled ‘Compilation of Articles on Law and Property in Nigeria: Simplified’.

The launching of the book, which was hosted by the British Nigeria Law Forum (BNLF) in collaboration with Prince Joel and Associates, took place at Rydges hotel, Gloucester road, Kensington, London recently.

In his keynote presentation, the author said the peculiarities and emerging trends in the thriving real estate sector in Nigeria motivated the necessity to put together resource materials on varying subject matters in the real estate practice in Nigeria, with focus on addressing industrial challenges.

The book which was divided into four segments: land purchase and transaction, land verification and documentation, general legal advice, and general information on real estate, he said is a handbook for property transactional knowledge recommended for real estate practitioners, financiers, developers, lawyers and investors.

He said: “My 15 years experience in real estate, exposed me to the realities of land/property acquisition and ownership, hence the need to rectify misguided notions about financing property investment in Nigeria.”

William-Joel said investors should know and understand their rights on land and property matters before acquisition. He added that investors should contact real property law firm with grounded expertise when buying land or property in Nigeria.

His words: “It must be noted that certificate of statutory or customary right of occupancy issued under the Land Use Act, 1978 cannot be said to be conclusive evidence of any right or valid title to a land. It is, at best, only evidence that is accepted until being challenged and proven otherwise.

William-Joel, in his book, extensively discussed methods of acquiring land in Nigeria.

You must work hard to build competence, Usoro tells young lawyers

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 05:07

Paul Usoro (SAN) . PHOTO Lawyard

Prominent lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Paul Usoro, has enjoined lawyers across the country to build competencies in financial management in order to aid their professional performance.

According to him, it is important for lawyers to go beyond their primary profession and acquire relevant skills in finance to improve their practice.

“A law firm should be operated as a business concern. In the course of my practice over the years, I have come to understand the importance of financial literacy and it is commonplace that most lawyers don’t have sound knowledge of finance, assets and liabilities.

“This hampers practice in a number of ways. With a vibrant knowledge of finance, you’re able to improve your law firm management skills, manage your practice very well and also offer advisory services on issues relating to finance to clients, where such is required,” he said, while in a meeting with a group of lawyers recently in Lagos.

He further enjoined young wigs to take advantage of the various courses that are available to non-finance graduates and also open themselves up to mentoring opportunities from senior lawyers. He posited that the various formations such as the Young Lawyers Forum could be a major catalyst to this objective

“Mentoring from senior lawyers is critical to knowledge transfer and will help institutionalize sound professional ethics,” he enthused.

Usoro is reputed for his contributions to the development of the telecommunications industry in Nigeria. He has also offered his expertise across various boardrooms in Nigeria, chairing the Board Audit Committees Airtel, Premium Pensions Limited and Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc.

He is a member of Access Bank’s Board Audit Committee and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Marina Securities Ltd.

Employee sues company over appointment termination

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 05:01

A Former employee of the CIG Motors, Akeem Adeyemi has sued the company before the National Industrial Court (NIC), Lagos, over the termination of his appointment with the company.

The plaintiff in a suit marked NICN/LA/35/2018 is challenging the  ‘wrongful termination of his appointment’ and also seeking an order to compel the defendant to remit the claimants pension contribution from April 2017 to August 2017 to his retirement savings account.

The claimant through his counsel, Olawale Fapohunda wants a declaration that the purported termination of his employment with the defendant through a letter dated August 31, 2017 based on protest against certain racial comments by the chairperson of the company, Mrs Chen Xuixia is illegal, malicious and wrongful.

The claimant sought the court’s declaration that the defendant breached his right to freedom from discrimination as provided for under section 42 of the Nigerian constitution 1999 as amended and Federal law of Nigeria, Cap C23 LFN 2004.

He therefore asked the court to declare that the deliberate refusal of the defendant to remit his pension contribution from April 2017 to August 2017 is unlawful and a violation of the provisions of the Pension Reforms Act 2014.
He further alleged that the refusal of the defendant to remit the Personal Income Tax monthly deduction made from him to the Lagos State Internal Revenue Services is unlawful and a violation of the provisions of the Personal Income Tax Act Cap P8 LFN 2004.

The claimant is praying the court to declare that he is entitled to N208, 000 being his outstanding entitlements and another order compelling the defendant to pay N104,000 being 25 per cent of his salary for the months of July and August  2017 and an award of N750,000 as cost of the action.

Imo Judiciary is on life support, says ex-magistrate

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 05:00

Gov Rochas Okorocha. Photo credit: Twitter

As the issue of non-payment of Imo judges’ allowances for about 16 months and other frustrations on the judicial officers continue to rage, a magistrate in Imo State, Dr. Ahiezechukwu Daniel, has resigned his appointment, saying that arm of government is on ‘life support.’

He accused the state government of frustrating and putting that arm of government into a state of backwardness.

Daniel who spoke at the weekend while addressing newsmen and members of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), said he tendered his resignation last December, after considering the high level of sufferings the state government, under the watch of Rochas Okorocha has subjected the judiciary to, allegedly cutting the salaries and allowances of both judges and magistrates at will.

As a result, he said he was prepared to govern the state. He promised to save the judiciary by restoring the lost glory of the courts to desirable standard and that of the state, if given the opportunity in 2019.

He said: “Imo state judiciary is on life support. Our courts are ramshackle. They are like where sheep are being grazed. As I speak with you, in Imo state, the judges are owed about 14 months of salary. They cannot talk. They are stranded. They cut salaries of magistrates in 2015 by 54 per cent. The same later happened to judges.

Meanwhile, both the immediate past governor of Imo State, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim and the Owerri branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), have called on the state governor to pay the judges their 16 months allowances.

NBA, chaired by Lawrence Nwakaeti, in separate statements at the weekend, disclosed that the body had filed legal action against the state governor at the Industrial Court, Owerri.

The statement said though the National Judicial Council (NJC) had the statutory duty among others to pay the judges salaries, the state governor has the duty to pay allowances to the judicial officers from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which the state governor had been accessing.

Reacting to the accusations, the state governor in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, said it was not the duty of the governor to pay judges salaries. He urged them to put their records straight.

Poor legal representation and prison decongestion

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 05:00


Many of the awaiting trial persons (ATPs) do not have legal or active legal representation and some who have legal representation are unsatisfied with the quality of service being rendered to them by their lawyers, Prison survey report reveals.
According to the report, which is anchored on a research on pre trial detention in Nigeria conducted by the Nigeria Prison Service (NPS) in conjunction with Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), with support from Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), United Kingdom, also indicated that many of the prisoners do not have confidence in the criminal justice system with the police having the worst rating from the prisoners.
The report, which is in three volumes, also looked at the socio-economic characteristics of prisoners and impact of imprisonment in Nigeria as well as a perception of prison officers in Nigeria.
The research on prisoners’ psychological and social-economic conditions in Nigeria focuses on assessing the socio-economic characteristics of prisoners and their families, and the impact of imprisonment on the prisoner, prisoners’ family and the prison service.
Research on pre-trial detention in Nigeria are meant to determine the nature and demographic features of the selected prison population, including their pre-trial detention population and examine the extent of the pretrial detainee’s inflow in prison, their duration of stay in prison custody and access to justice.
It also examined some of the impact of the demographic characteristics of the prison population and the inflow and duration of custody of the pre-trial prison population.

The study aimed at identifying the root causes, trends and other dynamics that help to explain the high levels of inflow of ATPs as well as document the status and condition of the sampled prisons across three geopolitical zones in Nigeria.
The study found that property and economic related offences top the list of offences. For example, armed robbery and stealing/theft ranked high among offences for which a large number of the inmates were charged, the report said.
It reports: “The prisons records show that armed robbery top the offence charged in Enugu prison. From the Enugu prison record, 50.25 per cent of the ATPs were charged for armed robbery followed by rape (10.13 per cent) and murder (9.68 per cent).
“Similarly, in Ikoyi prison, the official record shows that 46.5 per cent of the ATPs were charged for armed robbery while 22.6 per cent and 14.6 per cent were charged for murder and stealing respectively. In like manner, report from official record shows that armed robbery offence top the table with 25.3 per cent followed by rape and defilement (24.6 per cent) and murder (12.7 per cent) in that order.
“When all economic and economic related (property and property-related) offences are clustered differently from the non-economic (non-property) related, the figure for the economic/property related offences tops the chart. For example, for those charged for armed robbery (46.5 per cent) and stealing (14.6 per cent) in Ikoyi prison that will give 61.1 per cent.”
Providing information on the socio-demographic characteristics and perception of prison officers onv prison administration and the criminal justice process formed the specific objective of the research on perception survey of prison officers in Nigeria.
It noted that many of the prison officers are males in their middle career level and with a high educational level.
“More than half of the prison staff population will retire within the next 20 years. What is the implication of this for long-term strategy of the Prison Service and their mandate to the nation? This suggests the need for recruitment for more young and energetic youth into the prison service system,” says the report, which was presented in Abuja on February 1, 2018 by the minister of interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd).
The minister, who represented the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) said the Prisons have been neglected for a very long time. According to him, Prisons that were built for 800 inmates are now accommodating 5000 people. “Anybody who goes there, returns as an animal,” he remarked.
His words: “ There is absolutely the need for every state to partner with the federal government in administering the prison service and to domesticate the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA). We must do something about our Prisons because the situation is very disturbing.
“Part of the problem has been transporting inmates to and back from prisons. But the administration of president Buhari has been very supportive in all efforts aimed at rehabilitating facilities at the prisons and providing vehicles.
“Our major issue now is those awaiting trial. I found out that many of the inmates in Port Harcourt Prisons have been there for an upward of five years without going to court. We have to look into the investigation and arrest of suspects because if investigation is poor, prosecution would be difficult.”
The courts, he noted, have a lot to do too because cases are repeatedly adjourned. According to him, prison officials cannot do anything about prison population as the place only warehouses inmates brought to them.
He also identified other factors, which needs to be addressed in order to tackle the problem of prison congestion. One of them, he said, is the role of the department of public prosecution in ensuring that legal opinions are treated expeditiously.
Dambazau said: “We collectively have to do a lot about our prison system. We have insisted that officers of prisons, immigration and Police must train in order to gain promotion. Being a prison officer requires special training.”
The controller general of Prisons, Ja’afaru Ahmed said the prison budget for 2018 stands at N16.6 billion. According to him, the age long neglect of the Nigerian Prisons Service is gradually being addressed.
“We are demolishing our old structures for new ones. We shall soon commission new prisons such as Yola, Ibadan and Port Harcourt in order to decongest the prisons. There is a committee headed by the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) set up by the Attorney General of the Federation to look into the condition of the prisons in order to decongest it,” he declared.
He said over 279 condemned prisoners are in Jos Prisons alone. “We are appealing that government commute those verdicts to prison terms so we can manage them well,” he requested, adding that the NPS is building 3000 capacity prisons in Kano. According to him, that kind of facility would be replicated in other geopolitical zones with time.
“We want to establish many borstal institutions and the Kano central prison would be used as borstal institute when the new one is completed,” he revealed. 
In his goodwill message, the chair, Administration of Criminal Justice Act Monitoring Committee and Chief Judge of the FCT, Justice Isaq Bello congratulated PRAWA and the Nigerian Prisons for embarking on the survey.
According to him, the outcome of the presentation would help his committee to decongest the prisons. He also stated that his committee is currently on fact-finding visit to all the prisons in the Nigeria.
He said: “Whichever the industry, we must appreciate that data is changing the face of our world and for the prisons, the collation, flow and analysis of data are key elements for policy development, budgeting and resource allocation.
“Furthermore, this innovative enterprise if properly applied will ensure access to justice and provision of appropriate services in prisons nationwide. Additionally, it will help in the evaluation and provision of proper services such as may assist in meeting the educational, recreational, health and legal needs of prisoners.”

Ambassador of Switzerland to Nigeria, Eric Mayoraz, said the issue of improvement of Nigerian Criminal Justice System is of great importance towards the promotion, peace, security and development in Nigeria.
This initiative, he said aligns with some of the past and ongoing interventions of the government of Switzerland, which includes providing support for the training on human rights for prison officers and police officers.
“On the prisons side, the Embassy of Switzerland is also supporting a similar project of mainstreaming human rights for the personnel of the Nigerian Prisons Services. The project started in 2014 and is implemented with the NGO UCHEFEM for the NPS.

This project helped the NPS to develop and produce human rights training manuals to bridge a vital human resource gap in this area. Based on the manuals, trainings are provided all over the country,” the diplomat said, urging all key stakeholders to participate and ensure the effective implementation of all recommendations contained in report.
Executive Director of PRAWA, Dr. Uju Agomuo said the main objective of the report is to assist in reducing the number of those who are in pretrial detention.
Her words: “We found out that most of those in the prisons are those who are poor. Therefore, the recommendations require a multifaceted approach because no individual will do it alone.”
Some of the far reaching recommendations of the report include the implementation of the legal provisions and operational policies aimed at speeding up trial process, need for speedy and quality dispensation of justice, need to explore alternatives to imprisonment measures, promotion of oversight and accountability of the criminal justice process.
Others borders on the need for inter-intra agency and multi-sectoral coordination aimed at speeding up trial process, adequate budgetary provisions, addressing social and economic inequalities, promoting prison and community based rehabilitation programmes, Strategic engagement of the leadership of the prison service and where necessary with relevant agencies including the executive and the legislators to articulate clear strategies to effectively address the issues identified by the prison staff as their key problems namely: Staff Overwork, Delayed Promotion, Non availability of Work Tools, Obsolete Equipment, Poor Remuneration, Threats by Inmates and Corruption.

All eyes on special, sexual offences court

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 06:31

Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Opeyemi Oko (left); the Wife of Vice President, Mrs Oludolapo  Osinbajo; Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr Idiat Adebule and the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu at the launching of Special and Sexual Court Offences in Lagos.

Lagos always likes to blaze the trail in everything that has to do with reforms, possibly because it is christened the ‘centre of excellence.’

Ensuring that it scores first in judicial reforms as directed by the Chief Judge of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen that all heads of courts in the country should create special courts for the speedy trial of corruption cases, the Lagos State Chief Judge, Justice Opeyemi Oke has commissioned four special courts.

In doing that, Justice Oke said it was in obedience to the directive given last year by the CJN that special courts would make the judiciary more efficient and to facilitate the determination of corruption and financial crimes cases timeously.

The division is tagged, “Special and Sexual Offences Courts”. The Chief judge said that it had become imperative in order to ensure speedy dispensation of justice in such matter.

According to her, Lagos judiciary believe strongly that the special court shall fast track those types of cases and encourage the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other relevant bodies like Independent Corrupt Practices and Other related Offences Commission (ICPC) to expedite the investigation and prosecution of such cases.

Her words: “I make bold to say that establishment of special court is a new approach used as a reform strategy to improve judicial performance.”

She said it was cheering that Nigeria was joining the league of other countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, which had since thought it wise to take drastic steps against financial crimes by creating specialised courts.

“Thus, the Special Offences Courts will exclusively handle corruption and financial crime cases and others, including cybercrime and other related offences.

“We have commenced a campaign against corruption in our courts and among supporting staff. All hands are on deck to see an end to these cankerworm that has eaten deeply into the fabric of our judiciary delivery system,” she said.

The CJ said there were no fewer than 500 financial crimes currently pending before the Lagos State High Court, most of which had now been transferred to the special courts for expeditious hearing.

“We must not relent in our determination to see an end to this societal malaise,” she said, adding that the court would attend to sexual and domestic violence cases, which had grown to alarming height in the country.

“Sexual assault has become so rampant in our society. It has spread like wild fire from home to school, to the work place, on the streets, everywhere. Children, young girls and boys and women are constantly at risk of being attacked including the vulnerable ones.

“Although there are legislative instruments in our law books to combat the menace of domestic and sexual violence, they are almost ineffective in curbing the rising tide of sexual assault. This is because many of the incidents are unreported by the victims nor do they seek redress for fear or reprisal or stigmatization. Thus many victims suffer in silence, traumatized and left to cope with emotional and psychological scars,” she declared.

She however noted that the number of reported sexual offences cases in Lagos has increased significantly, adding that there are 600 pending sexual offences cases in high court and those do not include the Magistrate Courts.

Dignitaries present at the inauguration include the acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu.

The Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, Justice Muhammed Garba, represented the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachukwa, while the Deputy Governor, Dr. Idiat Adebule, represented the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.

Also in attendance was the Solicitor General of Lagos State, Mrs. Funmilola Odunlami, who represented the state’s Attorney General, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem.

Others who graced the occasion were the wife of the Vice-President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, and the Lagos First Lady, Mrs. Dolapo Ambode.

However, Ambode, in a speech delivered by Adebule said Lagos had keyed into the Federal Government’s drive to root out corruption, promising that the state “will assist in the expeditious prosecution of corruption cases.”

The governor described corruption as “a major challenge to the sustainable development in the state,” which must be fiercely combated.

The governor believes that the creation of the special courts would assist in expeditious prosecution of economic and financial crimes and ensures that justice is attained by bringing offenders to justice without delay.

Ambode noted that corruption constituted a major challenge to sustainable development of the country and has adversely affected the integrity, image and business confidence of prospective investors.

He said it is proper to classify Lagos, over 20 million population, as one of the most populous cities of the world “and indeed the economic and financial capital of Nigeria and by extension of West Africa.”

He said: “This naturally makes it the most susceptible to perpetrators of these crimes. This was why the courts are being designated special courts to focus primarily on effective prosecution of these cases given the volume of financial related cases handled in the state.

“I commended the CJN, Justice Onnoghen for this foresight and bold initiative, which is being implemented all over the country. In the same vein, Lagos State is in colaboration with the British Council under the Rule of Law Anti-Corruption programme to provide technical support in the fight against corruption, enhance good governance, strengthening the rule of law and reduction of impunity.

“The state collaborates with such agencies charged with investigation and prosecution of corruption offences, by providing enabling environment in terms of responding to inquiries and providing information to the EFCC and the ICPC toward assisting them in dispensing their statutory functions.”

He however pointed out that the goal to make Lagos State a safe place to live, visit and do business can further be achieved if these specialized courts operate as conceptualized.

Also, on behalf of the Lagos Attorney General, Odunlami congratulated the CJ, noting that is was a laudable event because as usual, Lagos has done something that others have not done.

The representative of appeal court president, Garba lauded the Lagos State Judiciary for yet again “blazing the trail” in implementing CJN’s directives.

Also speaking, the VP’s wife, Dolapo, said the courts “will make access to justice easier and faster for our people.”

The CJ, Dolapo, Adebule and Odunlami, in their separate speeches, lamented the rising cases of rape and domestic violence, while expressing their delight at the creation of special court to try the perpetrators.

Mrs Osinbajo lamented the level of corruption and sexual offences cases in courts, adding that the statistics quoted by the CJ is very frightening.

According to her, behind the figures are the faces of the affected women and girls as well as the men and boys.

Osinbajo said victims of such offences should never be ignored. “We should not ignore the trauma and nightmare that sexual offences bring. Let us not forget the girls not only in Nigeria but all over the world.”

On his part, Magu said: “I think the Chief Judge should be commended for single-handedly, very courageously coming out to initiate this court.

“I want to call on other judges to support the Chief Judge and the CJN. We call on all the other Chief Judges to follow suit by ensuring that they establish similar courts. We are going to fight corruption like it has never been fought before. This year, it’s going to be hell!”

Now that these courts have been created, it is left to be seen how they would help to achieve the objective of expeditious trial of corruption and sexual offences cases in our courts.

Living through crazy times

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 06:28

Scale of Justice

Reading a bit of Nigerian history recently, something struck me - much of what the country has lived through in the recent past looks a lot worse in retrospect. That is, even though one might have thought they were really bad at the time, they were worse in reality.

Consider a few examples. Remember the Bakassi Boys? When the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) investigated and published a report in 2001, the Bakassi Boys were estimated to have executed 3,000 people over an 18-month period in Anambra state. A German professor who used to lecture at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Johannes Harnischfeger, witnessed some of these executions and interviewed some of the ‘spectators’ as to whether they felt any disgust or disapproval at the executions. He never found anyone. Some journalists even awarded Anambra state the most crime-free state in 2001 on account of the Bakassi Boys’ efforts.

How about the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa by the Nigerian state in 1995? Look at it this way - from the day he was sentenced to death by the kangaroo tribunal, to the sentence being approved by the Provisional Ruling Council, and then to his execution, it was a span of just 10 days. How about the fact that the official exchange rate remained at N22 to $1 throughout the five years Abacha was in office even though oil prices were as low as $12 per barrel and as high as $20 per barrel in that same period?

Here’s another random thing - I recently asked people on Twitter if they watched the video of Prince Yormie Johnson’s men torturing and mutilating Samuel Doe in 1990. Back then the video was openly sold in traffic and in shops like any other home video. Of course, a number of people on Twitter said they had watched it and that it had even been shown to some children in schools. I was certainly very young when I watched it.

To a great degree, most of these random events (with the exception of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s execution) felt normal at the time they were happening. And even when people felt like something wasn’t quite right, they were either too afraid to say it or just went along with everyone else. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that one is able to look back and appreciate the depth of the ridiculousness. And of course, there is nothing anybody can do about changing the past. And so the nation trudges on, piling crazy upon crazy and then everyone looking incredulous when presented with the evidence.

A good test is thus to constantly ask ourselves - how will this thing look in 20 years time when we are looking back at it? In 2035, when we look back at the Nigerian Army executing more than 300 Shiite Muslims in Zaria and then detaining their leader for more than two years (and counting), how will it look? How about the fact that the Nigerian Customs has been killing people in the name of stopping rice smuggling? Or that the Central Bank no longer publishes its accounts so no one really knows what is going on there? None of these things is going to look good in the cold light of history.

If the past now looks crazier than it was when it happened, and the same is happening today, then the future is not looking too good. But I sympathise. One of the hardest things to do for a Nigerian is to detach themselves from the moment and have a broader view of what is going on in the country and its implications, not just for today, but for tomorrow as well. How can one do this when Nigeria’s politics is breathlessly entertaining and the country assaults its citizens daily with one absurdity or the other? It is nearly impossible.

But history remains a harsh and unsympathetic judge. We will not be able to say in the future that the circumstances did not allow us to respond to events in the way that we could have. We will still be judged very harshly anyway just in the same way we currently judge past generations and leaders who went along with the crazy while it happened or even went out of their way to justify and normalise it.

The solution is to fight crazy with crazy. It is an act of craziness to go against conventional wisdom or to insist that what appears normal is in fact crazy. It is a very crazy thing to do to hold on to principles when everyone else views it as a low value commodity. In the same way that history is a harsh judge, it can also be incredibly generous. Keep that in mind when you weigh events going on in Nigeria and plan your response to them.

‘Nigerian law school has outlived its usefulness’

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 06:25

Life Bencher, Mrs Hairat Aderinsola Balogun (nee Alatishe), is an Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON), Barrister-at-Law of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn and Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. She was called to bar in February 5, 1963 in London and July 13 of the same year in Nigeria. She is celebrating her 55 years at the Bar this week at the age of 76. The first female Chairman of the Body of Benchers, who is one of the few successful female litigators in Nigeria, shares her experience over the years in this interview with JOSEPH ONYEKWERE.

You are 55 at the bar. How do you feel about it?
The first feeling is one of happiness, satisfaction and gratefulness to God for keeping me in the same position for so long. I had my ups and downs, but by 90 per cent, I have enjoyed what I’m doing. So that is a big bonus. I’m glad I didn’t choose something else, I should have been a teacher but I changed to be a lawyer.

Can you now beat your chest to say that you have achieved professional fulfilment?
I think so. There is no need to be shy about it or pretend. I think if one can be lucky to stay a profession for that long and he cannot say to the world that I’m happy I have done my best and I’m fulfilled, then it is a waste of time. Fulfilment is not based on honours but in your personal satisfactions that so many cases have been thrown at you and you handled them satisfactorily. You cannot win every case, but majority you have done have given you satisfaction and people have come back to thank you, even for working in government. Till today, I still meet people I don’t know who said I assisted them when I was the attorney general. For personal clients in the chamber, many have become my family friends. I go to their children’s birthday and any occasion they invite me to. I think that is the testimony and one has to be grateful to God that it has profit all the way. I might as well been trading.

55 years down the line, you are not a senior advocate. What accounted for this?
I never applied to be one. My goal was not to be a senior advocate. You cannot be everything.  I have not really aspired to be a SAN. There was no such thing when I first came. We were operating the British system. I think few years after my arrival, Chief Rotimi Williams and one other were made QC and eventually some people became SAN. I never actually dreamt to be one. My ambition was to do what I was doing successfully and when I reflect on my decision today, it is a better judgment to me. Besides, I have been fortunate to hold some responsible positions that some SANs have not held and will never hold. So, that keeps me in good stead. I can hold my head up anywhere. This may be conceited in a way, but I mean every word of it. Lately some people came to say why didn’t I go for SAN and I said there is nobody there who can judge me. What I mean by that is that you are supposed to be judged by your peers or your seniors in everything. And when I look at the membership of the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, I said they cannot judge me because they will not know how to judge me. So, why will I carry my documents to them? So I’m fulfilled without it.

It means that you missed the time you should have applied had you showed interest?
No, I don’t think I missed it. My line of thought is that every other honour that I have been given, I never applied for them and will never apply. Those things are more valuable to me and more meaningful to me than for me to apply to say make me SAN.

In other words, you have issues with the procedures. In your opinion, you feel it is something that has to be bestowed on someone without asking the person to apply?
Exactly! In the U.K., the chancellor or judge will be watching you and at some point say to you, don’t you think it is time for you to apply for QC? And you will be wondering that you have been found worthy. Now, what does the application entails? They only need your name and address. They don’t need to demand how many cases you have won and so on even though we know how people manipulate cases. It should be like the national honours, you don’t apply but if some people look at you and think you are deserving of it, they put your name there.

Have you in any way in the past use your various positions to push for a change in the procedure for the conferment of SAN?
Never! That is because it really was of no consequences to my career as a person. It is not something I hankered for. If I did, of course, I would have my complaint. It is like when we are talking about the NBA, we insisted that to qualify, one has to be so so years in the bar. It is like a body in a community, which I refused to join. It may be edifying, but I wasn’t just interested. A very small number of SANs appear in Court and not available to give leadership to junior counsel.

There were not too many women in the profession 55 years ago. What inspired you into advocacy at that time?
The truth is that, at that time, I wasn’t conscious that I was different from the men. I just saw myself as a lawyer and carried my files to court and no opposing counsel treated my as merely a woman. I didn’t have any of that discrimination. If I had any discrimination at all, it has nothing to do with professional status. There was a time in 1971, we had annual bar conference in Zaria and people were campaigning vigorously and one fellow who was probably in his 50s came to me and ask who I was going to vote for? I said what? You are asking me? What a stupid question and he just slapped me on the cheek. I didn’t know two other gentlemen were watching and they defended me. So the fight shifted to them. That was about the only time I can say, maybe he did it because I was a small girl still under 10 years in the bar. I don’t think he could have slapped a man! Nobody has given me the impression that my gender was of any consequence.

A lot of successful women leave advocacy when they get married. How have you been able to maintain focus?
I think it is about management. You decide what you want to do and manage your life in that line. You have to look at the whole picture as a married woman with children, who must look after them in addition to other family responsibilities and organize yourself to ensure that one side is not cheated in your responsibilities. Otherwise, you give up that side and I didn’t want to give up anything in my case. Some people do not know how to organize themselves. They will rather give up something and say there is too much problems. It is not a question of money either. It is not everybody who says if I don’t work, I won’t have enough money or since my husband works and gives me all the money, I better stay and look after him and the kids. It is not everybody. It is lack of organization and management. They think they have beaten off more than they can chew and it is possible. You have the intellect and knowledge to do it well. Some will say they have to beg their husband repeatedly before he allows them to go to court while others will say if their husbands refused to allow them go to court, they will stay because their marriage is very important. They are not organized! I don’t believe any man will say that you will not go to court especially if he married you as a professional. I used to take my children to school and bring them back from school. When people complain these days and say school problems, I have to take the kids to school and all that, I say don’t tell me that. You can say there is traffic now, but we had enough traffic at that time for the number of vehicles and the number of roads available. When traffic starts in Surulere that time, you will almost feel like cutting your head off. In the morning, I dropped my children to school. When I had my lunch break is when they finish school by 12.30 and I go, take them home and zoom back to the office. That is how I used to manage it. No body took my children to school for me. I even took others when they begged me. You must find time and create it because you attracted the responsibility to yourself.

Who were the lawyers you were looking up to as a junior?
I did not only look up to them but I deliberately chose them as mentors. I used to go to them and listen to them. On the female side is late Aduke Alakija and Mrs Gloria Jackman. Jackman rose to become the chief registrar of the Supreme Court. For the men, Chief Rotimi Williams, Kehinde Sofola and my uncle, Osipitan. He is 95 this year. Oludayo Sonuga and some judges I used to go to their courts and chambers to learn. It is not now that when you visit a judge in chambers people will think you have gone to give him something or take something. Those days, nobody thought of that. One of them is justice Oluwa. He will be 100 in May. It includes Justice JIC Taylor, J.A Cole and my boss, Chris Ogunbanjo. I spent my first four years and few months in his chambers.

Who were your contemporaries at the law school then?
Some of my colleagues whom I share the same call anniversary with are now deceased.  57 of us attended law school together in Igbosere.  Some of those alive are Chief Akin Delano (SAN), Judge Bola Ajibola (SAN), Justice Josephine Izuora (former Judge of the High Court of Anambra State), Kenneth Longe (Life Bencher, Former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Edo State), Chief Ernest Shonekan (former head of interim government) and Justice A.O. Silva (former Judge of Lagos State). Those now deceased include Frank T. Akinsanya, Justice Solomon Adeloye (former Chief Judge of Ondo State), Chief Olayinka Rhodes, Alhaji Abdul Rasaq, Chief Kayode Animashaun, Prince S. G. Laoye and I am sure that your readers will agree that we have all tried our best for our time.

When it dawned on you that indeed serving judges were really indicted in corruption allegations, together with some senior lawyers. How did you feel?
I felt I could just die. I was really upset because there was no need for it. But some judges can’t help it because they get over familiar but it is for you to stop them. I have been to court and a judge said to me, Mrs Balogun welcome oooo, I am one of your boys. I didn’t recognize the person and I said really? And he said from so, so body and I said okay welcome your lordship. Me, I cannot think of anything for him and he can’t get anything from me. If he thinks of favouring my client, that will be his own business. I think since he saw my attitude in that kind of conversation, he will never ask me for anything. So that is how it happens. How can you say somebody says his father or mother died if the person is not your relation? I don’t know if I have ever walked into any judges chamber alone except when I visited the chief judge of Lagos because she is new and sought for our advise. I think one of the major reasons is that “Ethics” is no longer taught as a standalone subject in the Nigerian Law School for over a period of ten years.  I am told they now combine it with other subjects.  I was a lecturer and examiner in Ethics and Law Office Management (free of charge) for five years at the Nigerian Law School between 1979 and 1984.

Are you saying if a lawyer who rose from your chambers becomes a judge and loses his mother or father and asks for your assistance, you will not do it?
He doesn’t need to ask for my assistance. Once I know, I know what reasonable thing I will give him that nobody will have to say anything about it. We have somebody who went from here to the Lagos high court and none of us pops in and out of his office. To do what? In fact, if I hear his report from other judges, they say he is a terrible judge, so strict and doesn’t take nonsense. And I said, do you know who is his mother? And we made jokes with it.

Do you think we can get it right in the area of judicial corruption?
I think we can. We must really punish erring officers. Let them know that they are not in the bench to make money. It is a social service that they are giving and they are getting their salaries. You know what you were going to get before you get there. In the olden days, they never get half of what they are getting now. How much corruption incidents did you hear then?

Do you think there is a connection between these developments and the mode of appointment of judicial officers?
Some appointments have corrupt tendencies because there is no merit involved. But I think they have tightened it up in the last two years now.

Should the candidates be subjected to public scrutiny and not just to the lawyers alone?
Are you suggesting we vote for them like the Americans? I think we have enough people to check candidates. Long time ago, when I used to be interested in the NBA, we recommended that there should be examination and some people opposed it. The first time they tried it in Lagos state, they saw the result. I believe that we have to be careful with the judiciary by not making it pedestrian like any other thing. I don’t like secrecy, but at the same time, I don’t think we should be pedantic with the matters of the judiciary.

You had your legal education at the U.K. at a very young age. How privileged were you at that time?
At that time, my parents were well off. They could afford it because I had my secondary school there and legal education there. I left when I was 12. My father was a produce buyer. He buys cocoa from the locals, grade it and sell to the big companies like the UACs and other companies.

That is how he made his money. In fact, there were 30 of us. He was a Muslim and polygamous man. Everybody went to school. It is only one person out of the lot who didn’t go beyond the first year of secondary school. Many of us qualified professionally and I’m not the only lawyer that he had. My mother was the only child of her own mother and her mother was very rich. She was a textile merchant. The idea of my schooling abroad came from her, but when my father brought international passport and announce I was leaving next week, she started crying. She was crying until the day I got into the aeroplane. I’m sure there are many people who had money but they didn’t think of using it well to train their children. We had instances of my father’s cousins, whose children he educated and paid their school fees.

How many of you are from your own mother?
We were six but have lost three. My brother did automobile engineering and my sister did catering and we are all doing well.

Irrespective of the fact that your parents could afford everything you needed, could you recall any challenge as undergraduate?
Not as undergraduate! When I was in England, my money comes on time. I just go to the bank and draw out what I wanted. But when I first came back, I received a rude shock, which I did not expect, knowing the status of my parents. The first one was to get a car. I thought that they should be so elated that I became a lawyer at 21 and buy me a car, at least a Mercedes Benz. I channelled my request to my mother and she said I would get a car. After few months, she went and registers a special number plate with my birthday initials (1010) because I was born in October 10. So I was happy that a car was coming. So when I asked about the car, she said she can’t buy me a car. I couldn’t believe it! Who else will buy me a car, I asked, and she said you have to buy your own car like others. I argued that she can afford it and she refused and advised me to request for one in my work place. I was devastated. Up till that time, I go with her car to the law school for three months. So, I went to my office and told Chief that I needed a car and he said I should ask my parents to buy me a car. I told him my mother said I should borrow the money in the office and he said he couldn’t lend me any money because I just started and car was not part of the condition. He said he would take me to the bank of Lagos where he and his friend had interest and request that they give me £380 which would be deducted from my salary until I complete it. The car I chose to buy then was £600. I went to my mother and she completed the money for me together with the insurance fees. That was how I was able to buy my first car. To the glory of God, after that time, I bought my cars from my earnings.

There is a clause in the NBA constitution that recognizes rotation. But someone is already kicking against the provision that says a candidate can only run for a certain office from his area of birth and not where he resides and practices. What do you think of this?
It is very silly and stupid. One man doesn’t make an island. I’m sure that some people who agreed with it can’t be bothered. But I think someone has gone to court now. That is why Nigeria will never make progress because lawyers who are supposed to know the law are in disarray. We cannot advise the country properly. The day we settle our own scores and the NBA becomes a settled organization, this country by the grace of God would assume the best country in the world. Lawyers are the ones giving them wrong advise. But if they come and we say no, that can’t be done, it is against fundamental human rights, this one is against the constitution, don’t even think of it; he goes to the next lawyer and he says the same, then all will be well. But these cacophonies of advice are not good. Why should they? Whosoever that wants to run for an office is a Nigerian and the profession is for Nigerians. We don’t have state bars so far. If we had one, then everyone will go to their states and campaign there. It is just one bar association. Why can’t the best candidate emerge? It is politics and it is ridiculous!

What do you think of the leadership of the NBA?
I’m sorry to say and to observe that the NBA is not serving the profession and they are not serving the country as an organization. They are only interested in their own pockets and their own personal rights. That’s all!

At what point did the bar get it wrong?
I cannot put my finger on it exactly because things get bad slowly until it gets to a point of no redemption. You see someone standing for election and you assume he is a gentleman, that he would do better and then you see the person completely changed as soon as he gets into office. They are not interested in what is going on at the bar. They are only interested in the office. To acquire special status and make plenty of money to spend and then put some bit and pieces on the way of the young lawyers. I think that they can do better.

In your opinion, what is the state of legal education today in Nigeria?
Legal education, I think from the universities are doing their best. I suppose the universities work very hard and give students their degrees. But I think the law school has outlived its usefulness. It supposed to be a postgraduate institution where you learn more practically. In any profession you go to, take for instance the postgraduate medical college, they won’t begin to ask you how do you measure somebody’s blood pressure? They talk about serious issues that are really edifying. But the law schools admit so many people by hook and crook. How can you teach too many people in a postgraduate school? Too many people fail the exams. Something is definitely wrong. It is either the tuition is wrong or the atmosphere. Why do you need to call 6000 people to the bar every year?

You think we should do away with the law school?
The system in which it is running now, I think so. What I will suggest is that they leave the school as an examining body and allow people to set up private institutions to pass exam. When they are ready and think they can pass the exam, they apply to the institution and say they are ready, when is the next exams? In that, they will not get so many people per period. At the beginning, there was a rush to have as many Nigerian lawyers as possible, but along the way, we lost the quality because of the way they are herded together. Some people hardly attend lectures and just find a way of signing attendance and going away.

What do you think of the present state of governance both at the federal and states levels?
Too many cooks spoil the pot. I think we have too many people in governance. It is an unwieldy National Assembly. Since this dispensation, how many laws have they passed? We don’t get the best. I mean top educated people who really know why they are going there. The system of governance is so expensive.

What is the way out? Do you think the government should adopt the recommendations of the national political conference or return to parliamentary system of government?
I have not read the full recommendations, but I’m sure there are sound recommendations. They should take a good look at them. There is no shame in going back if something doesn’t work. Why is everybody going to the parliament to make fortune for himself and buy cars and houses? Can you live in more than one house? Some have five to 20 cars locked up somewhere. What is the meaning of that? I definitely have no idea!

The agitation for restructuring is gaining momentum. Do you identify with the campaign?
Definitely! This one is not working. This togetherness is not working. It is like marrying a bad husband or wife; one will kill the other one. Is it not happening? When such hostilities exist, the two of them cannot stay in the same house or one will kill the other. We cannot co-exist peacefully because everyday is about fight and kill. I pity children who are born now. Between now and the next 10 year, what would they see if nothing is changed?

What do you think of the leadership of president Buhari in his attempt to make things better? Do you think he is heading in the right direction?
Buhari is doing his best. That is my own summary. You can work it out yourself.

Is his best good enough for you?
I am not Nigeria

As a Nigerian and an elder stateswoman?

He is not alone and he cannot do it alone. He is doing his best, but others are not even doing their better not to talk of best.

As the first female member of the council of the International Bar Association (IBA), what role did you play for them?
I was instrumental to setting up genders committee, which is still on till today. We set up a working group, which blossomed into the committee. We also succeeded in making the IBA to come to Africa - Nigeria and Ghana because before that time, they had only gone to Kenya. We also influenced some appointments and I think generally people like me were instrumental in getting other Nigerians join the IBA.

What word of advice do you have for young lawyers considering the circumstances under which they work in terms of poor remuneration and harsh economic realities?
Well, every age has had that problem. When I first went to work for Chief Ogunbanjo, he was paying me £40. I will call it no money at that time if you expect me to live in a flat. Money is relative to the time that you are. One basic thing you must think about when you want to enter into any profession; you must ask yourself why you entered into it. Is it to make money? Is it to serve? What is it I want to achieve? If it is money, there are other things you can do and not this one. I got into the profession thinking it is a social service. I used to fight people like Aka Bashorun until he became activist and I said, see you, when I was telling you that in social service, you have to help people, what are you doing now? As a junior counsel, you can hardly earn money because money is dependent on your status, your seniority. People need to know, try and test you. Even if you go to a big firm that can afford it, they will say, which case did you bring? I am teaching you, so you should be the one to pay me. It is very difficult. If I were a young lawyer coming out and I am determined to be a practitioner and I don’t want to go and get a job elsewhere, I will be patient to be known and get myself established. Even in chambers, where they pay a lot, it is because you are useful and pulling your weight or else, nobody will pay you good money. It is not like medical profession, which involves life and death, so people pay you. In law, the game is different. It is important to clear in your mind why you are in the profession. If it is to make money, you have to work really hard!

At what age did you get married?
I got married at 23. It was far too young. People should get more matured before getting married.

Do you regret marrying at that age?
No. I don’t have any regret about anything.

So why the advise?
The times have changed. In those days, if you don’t have money, you can rush to your mother and say please prepare me a pot of soup. So many things she can get for you and will never ask you for the money. Imagine somebody coming to me now and say mummy buy me this or that, I will say excuse me; your husband doesn’t work? So people needs to be more matured so that they can manage situations very well.

How many children do you have?
We had three but we lost one, the only girl. The younger one is a lawyer and a senior partner of my firm, while the older one did Economics and History. He is a businessman.

Lawyers back NJC over Abia CJ removal

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 06:23

Justice Theresa Uzokwe

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ferdinand Orbih and a constitutional lawyer, Dame Carol Ajie have commended the National Judicial Council (NJC) for declaring the removal of the Chief Judge (CJ) of Abia State, Theresa Uzokwe, by the State House of Assembly as unconstitutional.

Pursuant to an address supported by two third majority of the House of Assembly, the state governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu had removed the embattled CJ, justifying the action with regard to the provisions of Section 292 (1) (a) (ii) of the Constitution.

Orbih said: “While it is correct to say that Section 292 (1) donate the power to remove a CJ of a state from office, it is equally correct that section cannot be read in isolation from the provisions of Sections 153 (1), 158 (1), 292 (1) as well as paragraph 21 (c) and (d) of the 3rd Schedule to the Constitution.

“A careful perusal of these other Sections will reveal that the power to discipline judges resides in the NJC. For instance, Section 158(1) of the Constitution guarantees the independence of the NJC when exercising its disciplinary powers while Paragraph 21 (c) and (d) of the 3rd Schedule to the Constitution donate the power to recommend to the removal of various categories of Judicial officers to the Governor for the purpose of removing them from office.

“A community reading of the Sections of the Constitution referred to above will reveal that only the NJC has the power to discipline judicial officers including the Chief Judge of a State.”

He argued that the principle of separation of powers is enshrined in our Constitution. “May that day not come when our judicial officers will be subjected to the whims and caprices of the Legislative and Executive branches of Government because Nigeria will be the worse for it,” he said.

Firm tasks lawyers on integrity, analytical skills

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 06:21

Nigerian law firm, Perchstone and Graeys has charged lawyers who desire to be partners in a law firm to have the spirit of integrity and analytical skills.

The managing partner of the firm, Osaro Eghobamien (SAN), who gave the charge while addressing newsmen, said that the firm is looking for specialization and integrity.

His words: “We are open for the possibility of having partners join us or merge with us. We are looking for specialization and then we are looking for integrity, so if we see a firm that, maybe specialized in entertainment and we have two partners who could compliment us, we will be very happy to go into that set of thoughts. What I am looking for is hard work, integrity and specialization.

"Any lawyer who wants to partner with us must have to be able to analyze the economy and then translate it into his own sector. He must be extremely hard working and able to communicate effectively and exude confidence. He must have a practice area that he will use to engage wealth.”

Osaro added that the main challenge affecting legal services is the absence of soft and hard infrastructure.

“In Nigeria, there is a problem in recognizing the fact that there is need for continuous legal education, so that we can meet the needs of clients. We deliver services to our clients and those services are equivalent to services they are accustomed to receive anywhere in the world, so that means we really need to work hard,” he said.

Furthermore, the senior advocate tasks the government to connect capital market into infrastructure.

He said: “If you look in the capital market, you will see growth in the capital market, that growth is not translated into infrastructure, so it takes time and efforts building to connect the capital market to infrastructure. Government needs to put in all the structure in place to connect the capital market to infrastructure.”

Falana accuses NNPC of failing to remit $20.2 billion

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 06:20

Femi Falana

Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of failing to remit over $20.2bn since the return of democracy in 1999 to date.

According to him, transparency and accountability are interconnected to the application of economic, political and administrative management of the affairs of a state.

Falana who made this accusation at a National seminar in Lagos said the federal government has to re-focus its recovery of stolen assets by vigorously pursuing recovery of assets from multinational corporations and not just the countries that are illegally keeping the looted wealth of the country.

The recovery of our looted wealth, he said, should also be extended to few Nigerians who have been indicted in the Panama and Paradise papers. According to him, the EFCC and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) should recover appropriate taxes from the offshore companies set up by such individuals.

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) organized the seminar in collaboration with the Ford Foundation, USA with the theme ‘promoting transparency and accountability in the recovery of stolen asset in Nigeria: Agenda for reform.’

Falana said: “It is undoubtedly clear that the governments of western countries and the United Arab Emirates are not going to co-operate with Nigeria in the repatriation of the nation’s looted funds unless the Federal government is prepared to adopt appropriate diplomatic and legal measures.

In addition, the labour unions and other civil society organizations in the affected countries have to be mobilized to mount pressure on their governments to return our looted wealth.”

Activist sues Federal Government for allegedly violating rights of indigenous peoples

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 06:18

A human rights lawyer, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo has sued the Federal government at the federal high court, Abuja seeking for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of 373 indigenous peoples within Nigeria.

Joined as respondent in the suit marked as FHC/ABJ/CS/107/2018 are the president, attorneys general of the federation, National Assembly, Senate president, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Security Chiefs, minister of Defence, governments of the 36 states of the federation, their attorneys general and Houses of Assembly, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The applicant in his originating motion asked the court to declare that the use and the support of the use of the Nigerian Military by the respondents in place of the Police in the enforcement and maintenance of law and order in Nigeria is oppressive and a violation of the fundamental rights to life, dignity of human person, personal liberty, family and private life, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, movement and freedom from discrimination of the indigenous peoples within Nigeria and the Nigerian Public and therefore illegal, unlawful, undemocratic and unconstitutional.

He also seek for a declaration that the Military intervention, aggression and occupation of the South-East, South-South Zones and the Niger Delta Region in suppression of the indigenous peoples and the public agitating for their self-determination at the instance of the 1st and 2nd Respondents and the anticipatory deployment of the Nigerian Military to South-West, North-Central, North-West and North-East Zones of Nigeria to quell likely agitations for self-determination is exploitative, oppressive and a violation of the fundamental rights to life and therefore illegal.

Among other prayers, he urged the court to compel the IGP as the Chief Police Officer of Nigeria to take charge of the enforcement and maintenance of law and order in the country.

The applicant also asked for a perpetual injunction restraining the respondents from further oppressing the people.

The application is supported by a 1068 affidavit deposed to by the applicant, where he averred that he is suing for the enforcement of the fundamental human rights of the over 500 indigenous peoples within Nigeria, which includes the 373 indigenous peoples and 44 pressure groups agitating for self-determination as well as the Nigerian Public.

“That I solemnly swear that the problem of Nigeria is the re-negotiation of its unity by indigenous people through a peoples’ constitution to save it from becoming a failed State.

Court nullifies NIA’s claim of disbanding ARCON

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 06:14

High Court

Justice Hadiza Shagari of a Federal High Court, Lagos has dismissed the suit filed against Architect Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON) by the former executives members of Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA).

The former NIA exco members had instituted a suit delineated FHC/L/CS/73/2016 against ARCON following the latter’s decision to conduct examinations on professional practice for individuals (architects) desirous of registering with ARCON, a position, NIA frowned at and held that, it was against the Act establishing its regulatory body.

Plaintiffs in the suit are past President of Nigerian Institute of Architects, Tonye Bradie, David Majekodunmi and Dike Emmanuel.

NIA said it learnt about a circular dated 16th July 2015, issued by the office of the Secretary to the Federal Government dissolving ARCON and it wrote to the Minister for Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Raji Fashola to seek clarification on ARCON’s status.

NIA said one Architect Sani Gidado, a Director/HOD Architectural Services responded to its enquiry, saying that the matter was being attended to and advised NIA to avoid any further statements or correspondence on the matter until the Minister completed action on the matter.

In 2016, NIA said that ARCON made allegations of spreading false information against some persons.

The plaintiff urged the court to decided whether having been dissolved the Council of the defendant can perform any duty or exercise any statutory powers under the Architects (Registration) Act 2004, whether the powers of the Architects Investigating Panel is limited to allegation of misbehavior in capacity of an architect.

But defendant counsel prayed the court to determine whether ARCON can be dissolved or has in fact been dissolved by the circular dated 16th July 2015 issued by the office of the Secretary to the Federal Government.

They also wanted the court to determine whether ARCON has the statutory power to invite any erring architect to appear before the Architects Investigating Panel among others.